Author: Gabe Grayum
Winter is a great time to get outdoors with your family. Kids are fascinated by snow, ice, frost, and other wintery phenomena. Other benefits of going out in the winter include no dust or bugs, and the potential for uncrowded trails. Going out for a full day in winter weather can seem daunting with youngsters along. However, you can keep everyone safe, warm, and comfortable by packing smart and being prepared, so don’t miss the chance to share a quiet wintery landscape with your little ones. The following is a discussion of my packing list for the colder months. Whether winter means deep dry snow or a damp chill, this advice can be applied to most climates.
Being safe and comfortable starts with dressing appropriately. Winter is definitely not the season for cotton. Synthetic base layers work better than wool if it's wet, and are more widely available and less expensive when outfitting children. Here's a full clothing list from top to bottom:
- Beanie. Just about anything that stays on will do.
- Sunglasses and/or Goggles. It's important to protect the eyes from both sun and wind driven snow.
- Neck gator. Good for keeping the heat in.
- Mittens. Two pairs. Mittens are warmer than gloves and kids tend to get cold hands easily. They are almost guaranteed to get wet, so an extra pair is important.
- Synthetic base layer top and bottom
- Fleece under a shell jacket. This combo is ideal for wetter conditions.
- Puffy jacket. Better for colder and drier conditions.
- Appropriate footwear. Waterproof hiking boots, snow boots, or even rain boots depending on the conditions. It's important that they are comfortable enough to spend the day in.
- Socks. Make sure not to put kids in cotton socks, and pack an extra pair for when the first pair gets wet.
Food for winter outings should be comforting and nourishing. Warm food and drinks can go a long way for morale on a cold day. Always make sure kids eat often, or everyone will be miserable. Keep in mind that you burn more calories in the cold so expect to consume more than you would in the summer, especially snacks.
- Lunch. Preheated soup or stew in an insulated container can be nice, though it does require stopping to eat. A simple sandwich is convenient if you want the option to keep moving while eating.
- Thermos with tea or other warm beverage. Make plenty of short stops for hot drinks.
- Snacks. Keep things like energy bars in pockets close to your body. Bars will become as hard as a rock in the cold and be inedible.
- Water. If it's really cold I like to carry warm water in an insulated bottle.
Winter conditions require carrying more gear than summer does, so you may need a larger pack. Bring enough gear to have a good time and be able to handle an emergency. It's comforting to feel like you could survive an unplanned night out.
- Micro spikes or snow shoes if you'll be walking on ice or snow.
- Hiking poles or ski poles. If the snow is deep you'll want poles with large baskets.
- A Camera. Don't let the weather prevent you from taking pictures of your outing.
- Foam pad. Nice to sit on during breaks, and necessary in an emergency.
- Stove, fuel, and pot. Mostly for emergencies, but if you don't bring a hot meal it can be fun to heat one up. It's also nice to be able to make extra tea or cocoa.
- Chemical heat packs. A convenient way to prevent cold fingers or toes.
- Headlamp. It gets dark early in the winter.
- Fire starter. Being able to start a fire for warmth is critical in an emergency.
- First aid & repair kit.
- Tarp and/or extra insulation. Consider packing some form of minimal shelter based on the weather forecast.
- Extra food
- Map & compass
- Sunscreen & chapstick for protection from sun and wind.
Winter is a magical time of year to get outside and explore with your family. We hope this will give you the confidence to go out and experience winter wherever you are.
About the Author:
Gabe is a talented writer, designer, and photographer who spends his free time pursuing outdoor adventures with his wife and son. Based in the Pacific North West, Gabe has positioned himself in a thriving outdoor culture. He's experienced in software design and outdoor product testing. We admire Gabe for his balance of digital skills, commitment to outdoor experience and most importantly, family. Check out Gabe's personal website here.